When the three masted whaling ship sailed safely back into the port at Nantucket, ladened with barrels of sperm oil and blubber , all of the ships twenty one crewmen called it a miracle and praised their old captain for his extraordinary seamanship, managing to navigate, by dead reckoning alone through the worst fog that any of them had ever encountered.
“You see it yourself. Fog thick as clam chowder; thicker than sheep’s wool”, they all boasted as they stepped off of their vessel and onto the cobblestone wharf of the bustling port that was crowded with smoking trypots like witches cauldrons and white oak barrels for filling up with oil; sailors and stevedores and artisans busily going about their work and crowds of young, spindly legged boys with romantic notions all eager to go to sea.
But, had they been able to see through that thick fog anything more than a scrimshaw like silhouette of port and people, they might have seen the nantucketers and workers on the quayside; those who they told about the fog, give them a strange look as if they were listening to some wild tale told by a madman.
And then the ship’s rich owner who, though he hated the sight of blood and the smell of whale oil, loved the money that it brought him, came to see the captain and then he heard the old man talk about the fog round about them and hearing this, the ship owner accused the captain of being drunk which the captain firmly and angrily denied.
But then a 14- year old cabin boy who had been on the ship went to talk to his friends who were playing about on the wharf and tell them about the south pacific and all the amazing things he had seen, like a monstrous whale being harpooned till the blood spurted from it, and he too talked about the fog that was shrouding the port and all the boys started to laugh and tease him which upset him and got him into a fight that ended with him getting a bloody nose.
And then some of the pretty young wives of the sailors, who happened to be on the quayside at the right time to greet their husbands returning from the sea were also told about the fog and heard their husbands make strange remarks like, “It is a pity that this fog is so thick, because I would have liked to have seen your beautiful face” and, giving their husbands that same strange look that the others had, asked them if they weren’t ill or perhaps over-tired from their long journey.
Even so, none of the sailors or their captain seemed to notice the strange looks or that there was anything odd about the fog they saw, besides its extraordinary thickness, not until they got farther into the town and saw that the fog seemed to follow them inland and even inside walls of homes and inns and boarding houses.
Then, after some time, the captain and his first mate were heard complaining, by an inn keeper, “What is this blasted fog that seems now to be everywhere in the whole island of Nantucket, even inside this inn?”.
To which the inn keeper remarked, “Fog? There is no fog in here?”.
But, by then, even the outline of the innkeepers incredulous face was beginning to fade behind the thick white blanket of mist and the whaling ship captain realized that he and his crewmen were all going blind.